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Message from the Director

Frances Ruane, Director, ESRI
Frances Ruane, Director, ESRI

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you to our website and to thank all those who support and use our work. I will be stepping down as Director later this year. The new Director, Professor Alan Barrett, will lead the institute in the decade ahead, continuing the Institute’s role of providing research to inform economic and social policymaking.

The Institute is currently redesigning its website and we hope later this year to have a new site with improved functionality and content.

What the Institute is and does

The ESRI is an independent research institute founded in 1960. Over the past fifty years it has established its position as an important source of independent academic research on economic and social change, which informs public policymaking and civil society in Ireland.

We cover a wide range of research areas and these are outlined in our current research strategy. Annually, we report on our work in the form of the Institute's Review of Research which can be downloaded here. Our latest Review covers 2013.

Our new research strategy covers the period 2014-2018. It is based on a detailed review of existing activities, including our evolving relationship with the higher education sector and, in particular, our strategic alliance with Trinity College Dublin in the social sciences. It also takes into account evolving developments in academic research and current reforms within the Irish public sector. We identify our strategic focus across 12 research areas and our priority actions for the coming five years.

The remainder of this message is designed to give you a quick overview of some of the key research currently underway, with further details available under the webpages for each of the Institute’s 12 research areas.†

Current ESRI Research

ESRI research seeks to inform our understanding of key issues facing Irish society. At present there is a strong focus on research relevant to economic recovery and to the impact of austerity.†This research continues to inform the preparation of short-term forecasts for the economy†as†published in the Quarterly Economic Commentary as well as medium-term forecasts for the economy as recently published in the Medium Term Review, 2013 - 2020.

The ESRI continues to undertake and publish research on the macroeconomic behaviour of the Irish economy. Our macroeconomists are currently working on a programme of research with the Central Bank of Ireland which is developing the next generation of macro models for Ireland, and a programme of research on the housing market, which is funded by NAMA and the Irish Banking Federation (view details of research in this area).†This year†has seen the start of a joint programme of research with the Department of Finance on The Macro-Economy and Taxation.

Autumn 2014 saw the publication of†two studies for the European Competitiveness Report 2014. Funded by DG Enterprise and Industry, the studies explored†Access to External Financing and Firm Growth, and Drivers of SMEs Internationalisation: Implications for Firm Growth and Competitiveness.† Related research† on SMEs, arising from a research programme funded by the Department of Finance, can be found in a report published jointly by the ESRI and the Department on Budget Day, and was discussed at an ESRI conference on September 26th. A related research project on financing SMEs in Ireland, North and South, funded by InterTradeIreland has been completed†and is published on the InterTradeIreland website.

The Institute is now in the second year of a two-year programme of research, funded by the Health and Safety Authority, which is seeking to create, improve and enhance knowledge on occupational health and safety in order to provide evidence for policy on Health, Safety and Well-being at Work. It has also commenced a new programme of research with Pobal, and the first findings of research from this programme are expected in early 2015.†

Researchers at the Institute are developing computerised experiments to explore the limits of consumers’ abilities to value complex products and to choose between them. This research seeks to provide evidence for policymakers that may help them to devise policies to support consumers to make better decisions in key markets. The research [Programme of Research Investigating Consumer Evaluations] (PRICE) Lab is co-funded by the National Consumer Agency, Commission for Energy Regulation, ComReg, and the Central Bank of Ireland.

Research funded by the Department of Social Protection is focusing on analysing aspects of social inclusion using the Survey of Income and Living Conditions (SILC) data.†A report,†published in 2014,†explores trends in economic stress and the Great Recession in Ireland.

Research on disability combined data from the National Disability Survey (NDS) and 2006 Census data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) to produce two reports: Understanding Emotional, Psychological and Mental Health (EPMH) Disability in Ireland: Factors Facilitating Social Inclusion, published in July jointly with the National Disability Authority and Disability in the Irish Labour Market: Evidence from the QNHS Equality Module 2010, published jointly in 2014 by The Equality Authority and the ESRI. A†conference in October provided an overview of ESRI research in disability across a range of areas, including equality, labour market participation and education. Related research on The Economics of Disability was published in December 2014. This edited volume brings together research†on the economics of disability in Ireland, with a view to providing evidence that can help improve disability policies, services and supports.†

The latest Annual Monitoring Report on Integration was published by the Minister for Justice and Equality in June 2014; it uses a range of indicators to measure different aspects of immigrant inclusion in Irish society. This is the fourth report on Integration and the Institute is currently seeking funding to ensure that Ireland continues to have this valuable annual assessment of integration in Ireland. The ESRI also conducts work on migration as part of the activities of the Irish National Contact Point of the European Migration Network (EMN), a network which is funded by the European Commission Directorate General for Home Affairs. Reports in 2014 included a study, published in July, on Migrant Access to Social Security and Healthcare: Policies and Practice in Ireland explored the proportion of non-Irish nationals in receipt of key social security benefits in January 2014, and looked at the policies and practices related to migrant access to social security.

Research on equality saw the publication of two related†reports in 2014, published jointly by the ESRI and†The Equality Authority. Gender and the Quality of Work: From Boom to Recession examines whether there has been convergence or polarisation in employment conditions between men and women from boom to bust. The second report Winners and Losers? The Equality Impact of the Great Recession in Ireland†investigates the impact of recession on key labour market and poverty outcomes with respect to equality.

The Institute’s tax-benefit (SWITCH) model continues to be used widely to analyse the distribution effects of different fiscal proposals. Training on the use of this model has also been provided to staff members in the Departments of Finance and Social Protection, to assist them in exploring distributional issues associated with tax and welfare changes; this supported the Departments in the preparation of Budget 2015.†A Major extension of the SWITCH†model is underway to enable it to consider issues related to financing healthcare. A paper, using the SWITCH model, which examined the distributional impact of†Budgets 2009-2015†was published in the QEC in December 2014. A report was published in October† titled Gender Impact of tax and benefit changes: A microsimulation approach.

The ESRI’s health programme covers both population health and health services research. A major new health programme†began at the Institute in July 2014†– it will provide evidence to inform healthcare reform over the coming three years. Funded by the Department of Health, the programme will include a range of specific projects including: the economic assessment of different financing, organisational and eligibility models in terms of sustainability, efficiency, cost and effectiveness; and the development of models of the drivers of health and long-term care need and demand. These models, which will incorporate demographic, epidemiological, organisational and behavioural factors, will support the medium to long range forecasting of health need and associated public and private expenditures. This programme†is now a†central plank of ESRI research in health.

Other research on health includes a study of the evidence on the cost and cost effectiveness of alternative models (comprehensive, intermediate, limited) of palliative care in the Irish healthcare system. In September the Institute co-published with the Irish Heart Foundation the findings of ESRI and RCSI research on an economic analysis of stroke rehabilitation, examining rehabilitation services for stroke patients in the Irish healthcare system. The report identified differences in patterns of use across Ireland and assessed the implications (economic, health outcomes) of existing and new models of care.

The Growing Up in Ireland research project continues and the survey of five-year olds has been completed. The annual GUI research conference in 2013 was held on 27 November, and the 2014 conference will be held on 26 November. Further details can be found at http://www.esri.ie/Childrens_Longitudinal_Study/

Research on education provides evidence to increase the effectiveness, efficiency and equity of different elements of government spending on education and training. Recently completed projects include a large-scale multi-method longitudinal study of special classes in Irish primary and post-primary schools, and the first ever major Irish study on the transitions from second level into to further and higher education and into the workplace. This report was published in August to coincide with the publication of the Leaving Certificate results and a major conference on education transitions was held†in†November 2014. The Institute has also identified a range of issues where it believes research could very usefully inform policy and decision-making. One such issue is how further education, higher education and other forms of post-school education and training interact at the individual and institutional level.

Research, produced by a team of Education and Labour Market researchers, resulted in a major report for SOLAS, published in May, on Further Education and Training in Ireland: Past, Present and Future. The study was designed to produce evidence to underpin the development of a five year strategic plan and associated implementation plan for SOLAS, aimed at developing further education and training in Ireland to meet the needs of both learners and employers.

As we continue to address our major economic and social challenges, the need for the ESRI’s research has never been greater. In focusing on policy-relevant research issues, the ESRI is continuing a tradition that now stretches back over 50 years. I am confident that the research activities of our research teams will continue to inform public and policy debates on how we may return to a path of sustained economic recovery and social progress.

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